A Neighbor is Who You Meet Each Day

This month I am back at the microscope, finishing up some aquatic invertebrate sampling work, or as we in the USGS call it, pickin’ bugs. This means I am still guzzling tea, listening to hours of books on tape, whimpering while rubbing my sore back, and seeing larva floating around whenever I close my eyes. It also means I can provide you with a critical piece of advice when it comes to hanging out around a microscope: do not be tempted to look at your hand under such high magnification. You will not like what you see. Unless you aspire to be the Crypt Keeper. Skin is not meant to be seen so close up. We’ll leave it at that.

Anyway, really I am here today to introduce you to some of my new friends, and remind you why its not a good idea to drink unfiltered water. Portraits have been provided by the resident entomological wizard, graphic artist, and heavy metal enthusiast, Joe Giersch.
The Neighbors:

First up, meet the ever-present Allomyia, case-maker, weaver of silty sleeping bags of stone.

Kind of cute, right? Sort of reminiscent of dog. With six legs. And a body like a tube sock.

Next, we have Simuliidae, the baby black fly, always with frivolous headgear. What a dandy.

And, as it turns out,  not unlike a certain dapper blue-haired British worm 
who clearly goes to the same hairdresser…. 
Incidentally, while I was looking for an image of this unsung hero of Labyrinth, I came across more than one photo of his visage immortalized on flesh. Yikes. While I will happily channel David Bowie, stuff my tights, and strut around like The Goblin King for a night, putting ink to skin to permanently honor a sassy Muppet worm on your lower back requires taking it up several more notches than I am near comfortable with. But I digress.
And here is the superstar of the lot. Lednia tumana, that rare little glacier-loving stonefly we’re petitioning for endangered species status.

Admittedly, this isn’t his best angle. I’m not the only one getting a distinct Nosferatu vibe here, right? The milk-pale flesh-equivalent, the shrinking posture, the contracted limbs raised up defensively against the light…

And last but certainly not least, we have my favorite little duffer, Hydracarina, the water mite. Again, this two-dimensional photo does not do the happy mini-Buddha-of-mountain-streams justice. I love finding these small friends amid the gravel and muck. Their pinprick eyes somehow seem smiley, friendly even. Yeah, they are dead, pickled in ethanol, but they seem at peace. No big deal. They have perfectly plump and rounded bodies, eight spindly legs (they’re in the Arachnid family) usually curled up underneath. 

Whether pink-tinged, yellow-tinted, dappled or translucent, the sweet mites always remind me of magical Miyazaki-like forest spirits. And ultimately, all of these creatures are exactly that.  

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